WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) - Purdue University President Mitch Daniels’
decisions to staff his administration with top officials from his time as
governor and in business are drawing scrutiny from critics who question
whether some of the appointments skirt state ethics laws.
About 30 new management or professional hires have appeared on Purdue’s
payroll since Daniels took office in January. At least six are former
colleagues from Daniels’ days as governor and as a top executive at Eli
Lilly and Co., the Journal & Courier reported.
Experts say the administrative turnover is a normal occurrence in higher
education after a new leader arrives. Former Purdue President France A.
Cordova hired, promoted or created new roles for nine vice presidents from
2007 to 2011.
Daniels says it’s no surprise that he’s tapped top performers whom he knows
from previous circles.
“We’re not going to disqualify an all-star because they once were involved
in public service,” he said. “If it’s clearly a necessary job, we want the
best possible talent,” Daniels said. “We don’t need people who just want to
punch a clock.”
The state ethics commission has signed off on the hires of two former
Daniels-appointed state commissioners who decided to leave Gov. Mike Pence’s
administration. But a faculty group says the growing number of hires with
ties to Daniels raises a red flag.
“Whenever you have somebody that’s been such a political person and they
come into a position like this, you’re always concerned they’re bringing
people in based on their abilities and not on their political affiliations
or the fact they worked for him as governor,” said Marcus Rogers, a
cyberforensics professor and president of Purdue’s chapter of the American
Association of University Professors.
Rogers said faculty members want to ensure that all hires are done
above-board and that Indiana executive branch appointees don’t become a
“If they’re the best people for the job and it’s a transparent process that
got them there, then that’s fine,” Rogers said. “Anything less than that
starts becoming a little bit of an issue.”
Others have questioned the strength of Indiana’s ethics rules after Pence
waived a rule that would have required former Department of Transportation
commissioner Michael Cline to participate in a one-year cooling-off period
before being hired as Purdue’s vice president for physical facilities. The
state ethics commission signed off on former Department of Administration
commissioner Robert Wynkoop’s selection as managing director for the office
of the executive vice president and treasurer.
Richard Skinner, a senior higher education recruitment consultant at
Ohio-based Harris Search Associates, said it’s fairly normal for a new
university president to cherry-pick employees from previous roles but
acknowledged that Purdue’s numbers were “a little more than we would
“My impression is President Daniels has a fairly aggressive agenda for
Purdue, and he may feel he needs to have trusted confidants working for
him,” Skinner said. “There’s probably going to be some raised eyebrows for
the first six or seven months.”
Deborah Hohlt, who lobbied for the Daniels administration in Washington,
D.C., and now does the same for Purdue on a contractual basis, said she’s
not surprised that Daniels’ former colleagues want to join him at Purdue.
“My former colleagues in the governor’s office would agree - when you ride
the Daniels train, setting the standard for others to follow, unbreakable
bonds of friendship, respect and loyalty are created that last a lifetime,”
Hohlt told the Journal & Courier in an email.
Daniels said his primary focus is on getting the right people in place to
“The approach is demand the very best talent and performance,” he said.
“Then the public relations of it all will follow.”